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Time Line of Photographic History

compiled by Michael W. Lemberger. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

For permission to quote, contact michael@mlemberger.com

5th Century B.C.    Chinese philosopher Mo-Ti writes of the creation of an image formed by light passing through a pinhole into a dark room. He calls the darkened room a “collecting place” or the “locked treasurer room.”

384-322 B.C.  Principles of Camera Obscura are known to Aristotle.

10th Century A.D.   Camera Obscura is invented by Arabian Scholar Alhazen.

c. 1490    Leonardo Da Vinci writes about the use of Camera Obscura.

1521    Earliest published account of the Camera Obscura.

1544     1st published illustration of Camera Obscura for viewing solar eclipse.

1614     Angelo Sala writes, “When silver nitrate is exposed to sunlight, it becomes the color of ink.”

1725     Johann Heinrich Schulze of Germany conducts experiments about the development of sun images.

1799   Thomas Wedgwood builds a camera with the hope of making images for use in pottery ornamentation. He does get positive images but gives up the project when the images soon fade.

1802   Thomas Wedgewood’s experiments with photography are published by The Journal of The Royal Institution. (London)

1826     1st photograph taken by Nucifera Niece, a Frenchman. A photo of rooftops, Maison Gras, near Chalon-sur Saone, France, it requires an exposure of approximately eight hours.

1829     1st known portrait is taken by Joseph Niece. It is of a French Cardinal.

1833     William Henry Fox Talbot, an Englishman, conducts photographic experiments with paper and discovers the negative-positive process. This is what forms the basis of black and white photography to this day. Talbot carries out many photographic experiments, using contact prints of feathers, plants and lace, on what he called “photogenic drawing” paper. He calls the process “Calotype”. It is later renamed “Talbotype” in his honor.

1835    What some believe to be the first photo negative ever made is taken of a window by William H. F. Talbot in his home.

Aug 19, 1839       Considered by some the “birthday” of photography. The French Academy of Sciences and Fine Art in Paris, reports on the invention of Photography by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre. The French government then purchases the invention and places it at the disposal of the public.

Sept 28, 1839    Samuel F. B. Morse, makes the first Daguerreotype image in the United States, with a 10-20 minute exposure.

1839     The Daguerreotype Camera becomes the first mass-produced camera

1840     Joseph Petzval, Vienna physicist, designs the fastest lens then in existence, which was made specifically for photography. The optician Boigtlander builds the first all metal camera for circular plates (Daguerreotype plates were 3 ½ inches in diameter). This camera reduces exposure time from 20 to 30 minutes to 1 ½ to 2 minutes. This makes it the first camera with which portraits can be made.

1840     Alexander Wolcott, an American, uses a concave mirror and makes a significant contribution to photography and lens design.

1841     Richard Beard opens the first photo studio in London.

1842     Edward Anthony starts the Anthony Co., It is the first manufacturer of cameras and equipment in the United States. Later it becomes Anthony and Scovill, still later it becomes Ansco.

1844    The first book ever to use photographs as illustrations is published by William Henry Fox Talbot– a limited edition of 150 copies with 24 original photographs glued into each copy.

About 1844    Mathew B. Brady opens his Daguerrian Gallery in New York City.

1849    Sir David Brewster develops and introduces the binocular camera for taking stereoscopic photographs, using two lenses side by side and separated by the same distance as a pair of human eyes (about 2 ½ inches).

1850    John A. Whipple creates Albumen prints.

1851     Stereoscopic photos become all the rage of Britain and Europe at London’s Great Exhibition. The popularity soon goes to the United States. 

1852    Frederick Scott Archer creates ambrotypes.

1856    Tintype photographs are introduced. (Also called Ferrotypes)

1856   The first stereoscope camera is patented.

1858    First aerial photograph is taken from a balloon over Paris, France, by Gaspard Felix Tournachon.

1860     Carte de Visites become popular with the publication of a “Royal Album” with space for your family photos right next to Queen Victoria and her children.

1877     Full color transparency taken of a landscape in France by Louis Ducos du Hauron and using the subtractive process, requiring the use of three separate negatives from dye images. The process proves to be impractical at the time but is taken up again in the mid-1930s.

March 4, 1880     The first time a half-tone was used by a United States daily newspaper to reproduce a photo. The New York Daily Graphic.

1885     George Eastman starts selling the Eastman-Walker Roll Film Holder.

1885    Frank Brownell of Rochester, New York makes a stereo camera, one of the few cameras of his to be sold with his name on it. Most of the products he designed were for Eastman Kodak.

1888     The original model of the Kodak camera is made by Frank Brownell for Eastman Dry Plate and Film Co. of Rochester, New York. It comes loaded with 100 exposures, circular and 2 ½ inches in size. This is the first commercially marketed roll film camera.

1889     Kodak puts its #1 Kodak camera on the market. (This is actually the second camera, but their first camera did not have a number on it.)

1890    Kodak starts a processing service for owners of its box camera. People can ship their camera full of exposed film to the company and Kodak will process the film and refill the camera with fresh film.

1895     Kodak introduces roll film with a paper backing.

1895     Discovery of X-rays by W.C. Roentgen.

1897     Thomas A. Edison produces the first motion picture, a western with no plot.

1901     Newsreel films of Queen Victoria’s funeral procession are shot by British photographers.

1914     Great Britain halts the importation of German cameras due to World War I.

1914    The first news photograph is transmitted by telephone.

1915     George Eastman has his portrait taken in color dye glass transparency. But the color range is very limited and the process is abandoned.

1935    Kodak introduces Kodachrome film.

May 11, 1936     The first photo transmitted by radio from New York to London. A photo of the dirigible Hindenburg arriving at Lakehurst (U.S.A.)

1941     Kodak introduces Kodacolor film.

1942     Ansco-Color film ins introduced.

1942     The first Pulitzer Prize for photography is awarded to Milton (Pete) Brooks for a photo of a battle on a picket line at a Ford Motor plant.

1943    Kodak introduces Ektachrome film.

1943     Michael W. Lemberger takes his first photo at the age of two. To make sure he has it, he clicks the shutter twice. (The photo is in a scrapbook)

1947    Kodak introduces Ektacolor film.

21 Feb 1947     Dr. Edwin H. Land announces the invention of the Polaroid Land Camera.

26 Nov 1948     1st Polaroid Camera, Model 95, goes on sale.

1962     Polaroid announces color film for pictures in a minute.

1976     Kodak takes its name off of film edges and replaces it with numbers. (I include this tidbit to help identify the age of film. If the Kodak name is there, it was manufactured before 1976. Photos still could have been taken with it after that but this is a start in dating the image.)

1982     Adobe Systems Inc. introduces Photoshop to the computer world, helping to launch the desktop publishing revolution.


contact bkorders @ mchsi.com (without spaces)                    copyright Michael W. Lemberger